I’m feeling discombobulated. Out of sorts. At sixes and sevens. I don’t know where I fit in the world anymore. A few days ago I did, but now I’m not so sure. I withdraw from social media (well, most of it) and immerse myself in light reading and even lighter Netflix. I don’t know what the feck is going on. What has tilted my world on its axis? My world doesn’t usually do that!
Since becoming vegan around 2004, not fitting in is a normal feeling when amongst the ‘normal’ majority. I love being a vegan, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. But I can’t deny that it’s still challenging to be vegan in a non-vegan world, and the challenges come from both visible and invisible forces. I finally identify what has rattled me – I have spent too much time with meat-eaters over the last couple of days. It has left me feeling perturbed and fragile, even though I’m no newbie Vegan.
We – family and friends – were celebrating an event, and over the weekend I spent more time with more meat-eaters than I usually do. It was nice to be amongst the gathering of the wider whanau. As I spent more time with the meat-eating majority, though, and the more conversations I couldn’t join in on, the more solitary I felt. Much of being ‘normal’ involves animal and environmental exploitation. But that’s not my ‘normal’, and the only conversation I was going to have about that, wasn’t going to be welcome.
I’m pretty staunch in my vegan beliefs, and no-one’s BS statements can sway me on that. Mostly, my veganism is accepted, and I’m not called out on it anymore. We’ve been down that road, my family and I, and it doesn’t go well. So, we’re careful not to get into a debate and ruin the party, which means that the meat-eating majority get to talk about their stuff (within reason), and I don’t. I feel a bit ghosted.
Amongst the meat-eaters on this particular weekend was a golden couple. They have everything – successful business, big toys, fabulous holidays, and are generous with sharing their success. Everyone loves them, and being in their circle is a happy place to be. They are bog-standard mainstream in all they believe and do, they don’t invite controversy, there is nothing not to like about them. I want to be included in their charmed life, too, but never will be. I’m the weird relative who is to be tolerated, but who will never really be included in the warmth of their world.
To be honest, this is not all their fault. If I was prepared to damp down my veganism, zip my lip and close my eyes, I could be a part of their merry band, too. But I can’t be relied on to do that. I’m a wild card. I know what I know, and they know that what I know will get spoken of sooner or later, and spoil their day. So, I’m out of the cosy circle. This is the price of standing my ground, and putting the desire to be popular and included, secondary to being vegan. I feel un-grounded by the tug-of-war between my beliefs and my desires, though, even though I know my beliefs won’t be shaken.
The more time I spend being on the outer of this family and friends’ group – many of whom are nice people, fun people, people who will help me if I need it – the more turmoil I feel inside me. All these nice people are doing horrible shite, whether consciously or not, and that unbalances me. The inner conflict between liking them but not liking what they do, is huge, and the more time I spend with them, the more it grows.
At the end of the weekend, I’m disorientated. I want to be a part of the happy, easy group, like I used to be, but know I never can be now. I feel isolated, and I isolate myself in turn in order to heal and recalibrate. It takes two or three days for the turmoil to settle, and finally I identify and name it – I am suffering from over-exposure to Carnist Disconnect Disorder (the disconnect carnists have with not being able to, or being unwilling to, connect animal cruelty and environmental destruction with what they eat and do, even though they may oppose animal cruelty and environmental destruction). Carnist Disconnect Disorder is like the sun – too much unprotected exposure to it can make us unwell.
I feel better and more settled after I have named the problem. Vague unnamed feelings of uneasiness are the hardest to deal with, but once the problem has been named, I have a compass point. I won’t ever find it easy to be amongst meat-eaters, but now I have a name for what I’m up against, and I am more able to manage what I can name.
But, if inner conflict and turmoil does occur again from too much exposure to Carnist Disconnect Disorder, my new first rule is to apply some Vegan Buddy Balm asap 😊
Header pic by Spencer Gurley.